by Awais Leghari
Each year towards the end of the spring semester, seniors huddle in front of the iconic, immemorial academic block at LUMS. Each year, the academic block witnessed something surreal. Students, having evaded each other’s gaze for a good part of four years, now come together, eye to eye, shoulder to shoulder and look up towards the sky. They want to get a picture taken. The camera man stands and signals on the second floor of the PDC, and almost instantly, the chantings begin. It’s a countdown. Ten…nine…eight…and just like that, the picture fails to capture the nostalgia, the depression, the ecstasy, the gloom and other innumerable feelings that hundreds of people are going through or have gone through, together. These people are all joined in unison by the colour they are celebrating. For the years they went to the same university together, they enjoyed the liberty of not dressing up in uniforms. After all, university is not like school. It is something much more special. These colours – blue, white, yellow, red, green, orange, purple and some more – are uniforms they wish they never wore. For four years, they wanted out. The sleepy 8:00 AMs, the exhausting evening classes and all-consuming stress of examinations and grading instruments: my people thought they would have it better once they leave. No heed is paid to accumulating suggestions from the batches above them repeatedly saying that good-byes are not so exciting once you come closer to them, even if they are beautiful. Why would a freshman, a sophomore or a junior occupy his mind with the end-of-days festivities? It would not make sense. Anticipation cannot do justice to the moment felt in time, and every batch lets that moment come to it at the time it is due. Today, as I look around my peers all dressed in the same colour, much like a uniform, I understand that the time has finally arrived. If you look closer, the eyes reflect a weariness, a gloom that the rest of the body is oblivious to. It has not been stirred just yet. The good-byes are dormant but they will be ceremoniously performed, and that realization is starting to dawn upon everyone.
A few hours after the service, the picture pops up on Facebook, and it looks completely normal and ordinary. But it’s not. Of all the faces looking up and smiling from ear to ear, I wonder if the outsider, the one who hasn’t seen them before, can ascertain the potential of the people he sees. He would never know the boy who was slated to go abroad to some ivy league. He would never know the challenges some NOP had to overcome to fit into the picture on this day. Some people are already being chiseled towards a path of greatness. A few may have battled addiction and won. There are also a few who are looking down upon these people, no longer among them, wishing that their friends would remember them in this apparently ordinary moment. Most have changed physically and mentally beyond recognition. Their minds are anew, ready to go full throttle into the sunset. You see, this is not so normal and ordinary. I was right there, witnessing it all, and I could tell that I stood in front of the academic block amongst a group of special people.
Once we finally resign ourselves to the ‘commencement’ of our lives outside of the bubble we had created for ourselves, the real struggle will begin. Friends will no longer remain so accessible, so hands-on. No more pranks, no more run-ins to catch the early breakfast and no more fretting over missing the morning class. All will be stifled to the onslaught of new possibilities. Most will adorn a sharp suit and work in a cubicle from nine to five. Some will attempt to brave the uncertainty and give life to a new business. Some will be fighting for justice in courts. A few will jet off to new pastures and begin a fresh academic rut. Even fewer will forever be forgotten. I am from the batch of 2017, who will graduate in 2018 as a lawyer. This ode is to my beautiful batch, who will graduate before me. We are the outliers, and we are going to change the world, just as we promised.